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Ladies' basket hats.

Among the skilled weavers of the Columbia River Plateau region, the women of the Yakama, Warm Springs, Nez Perce, Umatilla, Spokane, Colville and Coeur d'Alene would make a number of utilitarian and decorative items made of twined fiber. The University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History describe this fiber as:

   ... twined from the peeled, cured, and hand
   spun fibers of dogbane orsilkweed
   (Apocynum cannabinum), the bags were
   decorated with contrasting-colored plant
   fibers. As Euroamericans began to settle in
   the region, new materials became available.
   As early as the 1830s, husks of corn were
   used as decorative overlay, and worsted wool
   yarn was probably introduced in the 1880s, along with aniline dyes
     to expand the available range of colors.

These fibers were woven into baskets and bags and were used in the collection of roots and berries by the women of this region. Ladies wore hats that were made from the same materials and resembled a basket. These items were given the ordinary description of "basket hats" and "corn husk bags", and were used by ladies for both secular and ceremonial purposes. Today, these unique hats signify the wearer's connection with the Native tribes of the Plateau region.

The process of twining and weaving the materials is something that is passed down generationally and for the last 50 or more years there have been very few people with the skill to make these items. Today, there is a resurgence of this craft fueled by an effort to teach people the process in tribal workshops across the reservations in the Northwest.

Patricia Heemsah is posed on her 12 year old quarter horse. Patricia is wearing a perfect example of a Plateau basket hat. It is the quintessential basket hat design, the pyramid design that rises from the rim mirroring the design at the top with bold contrast to the natural fiber. Her hat is decorated with an eagle plume. Her braids are wrapped in otter strips and decorated with beaded hair ties. Her choker and earrings, made of dentalium shells, hang delicately, framing her face. The beadwork on her dress top is a very typical style of the Plateau with lanes of beads in blocking color combined with shells; white ermine hides are tied to the shoulders of the dress top. The fringe on a Plateau dress is typically shorter than those of Northern Plains tribes. It is also common for women from this region to wear beaded cuffs like the stylized eagle beaded in yellow overlay. From the horn of her traditional saddle hangs a basket used for collecting berries; behind her, a rawhide cylinder. Draped over her lap is a lime green wool blanket that is beaded in applique floral designs, typical for the area. Covering the face of her horse is a partially beaded horse mask. Note that the flower petals are cowrie shells of differing size. At the top of the horses head is a clump of eagle feathers attached to a metal concho. Partially beaded, wool horse masks like this one are common in horse parades of the Northwest.

Photograph by Chris Roberts.

The basket hat worn by this young lady (above) is a fine example of a well-constructed and designed hat. In contrast to the bright and shiny beaded crown in the background behind her, one could argue that this is far more regal than the common beaded types, especially when one realizes the rarity of this art form and the skill required to make a hat as beautiful as this one. Her attire is very typical of a Plateau style dress. Her shell earrings, beaded choker and her neck are draped in various necklaces consisting of shell discs and turquoise padre beads. In her hand she is carrying a beautiful immature golden eagle tail fan which appears to be made by Colby White, an artist who lives in Washington State. She is also carrying a beaded "flat bag" with a pictographic design. Elaborate designs of nature and animals are very common for flat bags like this and are almost invariably beaded in the couched overlay technique. The wool top of her dress is decorated with lanes of seed beads. These appear to be 12/0 or 13/0 charlotte "cut" beads. Often Plateau dresses are made with larger beads and trimmed with dentalium shells.

Photograph by Chris Roberts.

As noted in the Scott Thompson article in this issue, beaded basket hats have become popular with young ladies who are looking to match the rest of their beaded outfit or don't have access to an artist who works with corn husk materials. The young lady on horseback is wearing a Plateau dress whose top appears to have the designs painted directly on the hide with large white seed beads beaded around the design. Her cuff and hair ties are decorated with beaded fringe terminating in a lime green jewel that matched the color of her floral and bald eagle themed beadwork. Her horse has a partial horse mask that also has the same bald eagle design. The inset photo shows the back of her hat with her floral design, she has an eagle plume that extends upward from the bottom of the hat.

Photograph by Chris Roberts.

Contestants in the Miss Indian World Pageant which is held annually at Gathering of Nations Powwow, come from all over North America to compete in the pageant. Part of the evaluation process is the contestants understanding and display of their Native culture through tribal knowledge, demonstrations and Native traditional dress for their tribe. This participant is wearing a beautiful Plateau outfit. Her contemporary beaded basket hat features a diving bald eagle imposed on a US flag. Mounted to her hat is a beautiful clump of eagle plumes ignited by the lighting behind her. Her dress and beadwork designs are typical of the region, around her waist is a tooled leather belt stamped with designs that emulate her beadwork. Note the cuff on her right wrist--the beaded fringe on the cuff is terminated with tiny shells. Shells are commonly used in Plateau outfits as they were a trade item from the Pacific coast.

Photograph by Brian Fraker.
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Title Annotation:Powwow Fashions
Author:Jones, Craig
Publication:Whispering Wind
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2014
Previous Article:Powwow dates.
Next Article:Floral Journey--Native North American Beadwork.

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